Premature decoration

When I think of Christmas, I think of the warmth and good cheer of the holiday season. Whether itís curling up in front of the fire with a mug of hot cocoa, or layering up in cold-weather gear and tromping through the snow looking for the perfect evergreen Ė I love it all. You canít beat the warm, cozy feeling you get from spending time with the ones you care about. And thereís even a certain charm about the body heat generated from being shoulder to shoulder with fellow shoppers as everyone scrambles to get last- minute gifts for friends and family.

OK, Iím not truly a fan of this last one, but you get the picture. The warmth comes from togetherness, and the spirit of giving.

There is one kind of warmth that I donít associate with this most festive of holidays: the heat of the sun. At least not here in upstate New York. (Iíve done the holidays in warmer climes, and itís just not the same.)

This week, as Iíve looked out on a string of beautiful, sunny days, Christmas feels so far away.

And it should, since itís only mid-November.

That fact seems to have escaped some people, though. Our local municipalities started putting up their holiday wreaths and banners weeks ago, before the last remnants of Halloween shaving cream had even dissipated. Santaís igloo is already up in West Park, for goodness sake!

Just turn on the television. Cable networks are counting down to their Xmas countdowns. And it seems like every commercial and bit of advertising is centered around that same, rather cliched, ďhome for the holidaysĒ theme as retailers ply their Christmas wares in earnest.

Plenty of local merchants have jumped on the sleigh early as well. Donít get me wrong, their windows look nice. And I hope people do shop locally this year. But itís all just a bit premature, in my opinion.

Homeowners have gotten into the swing of it, too. You may have noticed that quite a few took advantage of last weekendís nice weather to put up their own Christmas decorations.

I cringed when I passed the house of a friend of mine on Sunday. Not that her yard, which had been colonized by more holiday-themed inflatables than I could count, didnít look fantastically festive Ė it did. I just couldnít help thinking about the size of her electric bill.

And while to a certain extent I can see why youíd want to get a head start on putting up your outdoor decorations while the weather is still nice and mild, I canít fathom anyone putting up their Christmas tree this early. Yet, I swear I saw a telltale yuletide glow from a window as I drove to work earlier this week.

While I admire the industriousness of these individuals, already so caught up in the holiday spirit, it just makes me want to tell them all to cease and desist. Is it possible, do you think, to issue a citizenís injunction for premature decoration?

Iím not a Scrooge. Far from it.

Itís that I just donít like feeling rushed. And I am. Feeling rushed.

I know, I know Ė Iím starting to sound like a broken record. I moaned about this very same thing in a blog I posted last year, on November 7, 2008 titled, appropriately enough, ďDonít Rush Me!Ē

What it boils down to is that I want to take my holidays one at a time. I feel like someone needs to come to the defense of Thanksgiving, which is getting the short end of the stick in all this. (Christmas inflatables are outnumbering blow up Tom Turkeys by at least 20 to 1 from what I can tell.)

I know this day of giving thanks is far less commercial than its December counterpart, but is that any reason to eschew tradition? Thanksgiving does, after all, have some greater significance than merely being the eve of Black Friday.

In my family, the fourth Thursday in November is quite possibly the most important holiday of the year. When I was a kid, our house would be packed with relatives. It wasnít uncommon to have 30 or more squeezing in for dinner.

The table Ė well, tables really, all pushed together for the meal Ė would be overflowing with food. It was nothing short of a feast, with mashed potatoes, turnips, creamed cauliflower, several sweet potato dishes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and at least one turkey. Not to mention plenty of those brown and serve rolls straight from the oven, and homemade apple pie for dessert.

In those days there would also be a dish of creamed onions on the table, which no one would eat, but had to be there because my grandmother, who passed away when I was three, always made them. You see, Thanksgiving was her holiday. And it is a tradition that my mother, and all of her twelve siblings, have carried on proudly in her stead.

Now, there is less of a crowd around our table. There probably wonít even be 10 this year, but thatís OK. The sentiment, and the ties that bind us all together, are still the same. That sense of family and togetherness, giving and thanks, giving, is what the holidays are all about for me. Regardless of what your familyís traditions are, or your religious affiliation, you may share a similar view.

My fear is, if we focus too much on the material trappings, weíll lose the true meaning of the holiday season. What will we be left with? A depleted bank account and a few maxed-out credit cards is my guess.

So, before you put up any more of your Christmas decorations, take a break. Eat some turkey. Spend some time with the fam. Watch football, if you absolutely have to.

While youíre doing it, think about what the holidays are all about.

There will still be 28 days of shopping left after Thanksgiving.

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